If I tell you that I have a personal trainer who comes to my house twice a week, it will sound extremely expat lady I’m sure. But since last September I’ve been working full time, studying full time (which became part time during the semester) and trying to finish my novel, and the personal training route became the only way I was going to get any exercise done. I couldn’t get to classes, and as my gym routines became old and stale I could feel my trips to the gym becoming less and less strenuous as my self-discipline and motivation dwindled. And that’s it’s own self-feeding spiral, isn’t it?
I need to exercise. It’s not only that I live a reasonably sedentary working life and the car culture I live in doesn’t promote much incidental exercise. It’s also that ever since we arrived, exercise has been one of the cornerstones of maintaining my mental health.
So I got a trainer, planning to revamp my strength training routines, get some new ideas and hopefully get myself back on the self-training track.
One of the things he tried to do was assess my food and nutrition. Okay, I thought, this will be good. I will lose those five kilos I put on my ‘to do’ list every single year. I downloaded the fitness app that everyone uses (I’ve forgotten what it’s called, and if that’s not foreshadowing I don’t know what is). And I started logging my food. Not right away, but after a week or so I started. And it was fun, like any of those things are. Looking at the pretty pie charts and bar graphs. But I never really got into it.
‘How’s your diet been?’ he would ask each time he came to the house.
‘Okay,’ I’d say and shrug.
‘You haven’t been filling it in, have you?’
‘Have you stopped having the school lunches yet?’
‘Not really. They’re kind of delicious.’
After a few weeks of this he said to me one day, ‘Right, if you haven’t got on top of it by next week, I’ll put you on the paleo diet.’
‘Okay, but I won’t do it.’
‘You’ve got one week.’
‘But I’m telling you quite honestly that I won’t do it.’
And so I went on. I still ate the school lunches. Partly because they were kind of delicious and partly because it was a way of spending time with the children – the year twos love it when the librarian comes to the dining hall and they love to bring me a glass of water and to help me find the perfect banana. And although I tried to change my less-than-nutritious breakfast of two slices of toast with vegemite, a thirty-year habit is hard to change. Plus, I love it. I did stop drinking wine every night, but apart from that not much changed.
After more and more sessions of my increasingly apparent lack of interest he’s stopped asking and I’d tell you how long since I last filled in my fitness tracker but I really couldn’t be bothered going to find it. And now we just concentrate on the weights on the bar and he’s also trying to convince me I should do more sprints which yeah, nah, gah!
The other morning, when I was in the shower, I realised what a very big deal this actually is. I must be happy with my diet (used in the broadest sense of the word to mean what I actually eat rather than what I am limiting myself to eat) and possibly even with my body just the way they are. I do have a tendency to procrastinate, but if I really want to do something I usually find a way of getting it done. Like, if I wanted to care about my food that way I would have tracked it.
I have always wanted to be happy with these things. And I actually did stop going to a particular person’s classes because he kept insisting that the primary reason people exercise is so that they look better naked. I argued that no I didn’t, but I did assume that I was arguing more out of principle than out of an actual belief I actually held. But this is the first time I realised that I really am exercising simply because it’s good for my heart and for my brain. And if I think about it, I don’t remember the last time I stood in front of the mirror and thought, ‘oh, god, my legs.’ My legs haven’t changed – they’ve been more or less this shape and size and for twenty years – so it must be my mind. Pretty pleased with that.